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Crossroads: Tales from the Heartland - 7. Teacher’s Pet

Like so many others before me, I chose teaching because I thought I could make a difference. There had been a number of teachers in my life - both men and women - who had literally made me what I am today. I couldn’t imagine what my life might have been like had it not been for their influence. I wanted to play that role for the kids of today. I wanted to change lives.

Of course I also had a number of teachers along the way that could have cared less. So uninspired were they that it had been an effort just to pass the courses they taught. As I came to see the profession of teaching as what I wanted to do with my life, I couldn’t help but wonder why anyone would go into teaching if they didn’t care about kids. Teachers did so much to mold young lives - to turn young children into the teenagers who would be the adults of tomorrow. What kids absorbed in the classroom and through their interactions with their peers in school would have a lasting impact. At the very least, it was just as important in determining whom they would become as was the foundation laid by their parents. The teaching profession truly was a calling.

When I was a teenager, my boyfriend, Carlos, and I both went to Shortridge High School, a magnet school in the city for Law and Public Policy. It was an excellent high school that provided a well-rounded education. Carlos and I were both top students and the superb academic environment provided at Shortridge gave us both the opportunity to excel. Indeed, thanks to advanced placement, we were able to test out of, or receive credit for, nearly all of the courses in our freshman year in college and one or two sophomore courses too.

Shortridge had a highly regarded athletics program as well. Carlos was a star offensive player on the soccer team, and I was content to let him be the one to shine, but then my dads insisted I get involved with a team sport myself. They felt that burying my nose in my books wasn’t good for my mind any more than it was good for my body. I vigorously disagreed.

My dads wouldn’t back down, however, and I decided that, if I had to play a sport, it might as well be the one my boyfriend played. That way, at least it would be something we could do together. Not that I expected to play varsity as he did but, perhaps in some small way, he could keep me from making a complete fool of myself. What I didn’t count on was that I’d actually be good at it.

I was a slight, effeminate bookworm with about as much interest in sports as a weevil who’d made the football field its home, playing with boys who’d been playing soccer all their lives. Perhaps by virtue of my small size and an agility I never knew I had, I managed to outmaneuver most of them. I couldn’t score a goal worth shit but, man, could I ever steal the ball. No matter how hard they tried, opposing players just couldn’t get past me. My teammates called me Jockin’ Jerry. Coach said I was one of the best defensive midfielders he’d ever had. I got to play varsity with Carlos after all.

I excelled in the classroom and I excelled on the soccer pitch but, when I told Carlos I thought I might like to become a teacher myself, he told me I shouldn’t sell myself short, as if teaching was beneath me. “Jerry,” he said to me, “you can be anything you want to be. Fuck, you could even be the president someday if you put your mind to it.”

The truth was, I really did think I might like to go into politics. It was a lofty ambition, bolstered by the success of Barak Obama’s ascension to the White House, although his presidency was tempered by the blatant racism he faced once he got there. If so many Americans weren’t ready for an African American president, what made me think they’d be accepting of a gay African American president?

I wasn’t exactly subtle about being gay either. My parents threw me out when I was only ten because, even then, I was effeminate. That, and they caught me trying on one of my mother’s dresses. Well, it did look good on me!

As time went on, it became clear to me that teaching was not beneath me. I saw it as a calling - a way to give back what had been given to me. My decision not to pursue a Law degree created a lot of friction with my boyfriend at first but, ultimately, Carlos supported me all the way. One lawyer in the household was going to be enough!

Of course none of that would have mattered had it not been for the wonderful support Carlos and I had growing up. It was our parents, after all, that laid the foundation upon which we grew - not my biological parents, but the ones that raised me.

When my biological parents threw me out, a young gay couple took me in, even though they were just in college themselves. Ricky was white like Carlos and Tyler was black like me, and they were the best dads ever. It was more like living with my brothers than my parents. Sure, there were rules and I got punished like any other kid when I did something wrong but, when it came to being with my boyfriend, they pretty much let us be. Maybe it was because they’d lived together as a couple since they were thirteen. In any case, whenever Carlos spent the night, so long as my bedroom door was closed, we had complete privacy.

Later, Ricky and Tyler took in other boys too. As they put it, they had a large, four-bedroom house that had belonged to Tyler’s parents, and they had to spend money on heat and electricity, no matter how many of us there were. Of course that didn’t include the cost of feeding teenage boys which, I would one day learn first hand, is not trivial. However, as foster parents, they got money from the state, so I guess it was a wash in the end. The main thing was that I was just the first of a series of boys to be given a loving home by Ricky and Tyler. Thanks to them, my foster brothers, Brandon, Scott, Jeff, Simon and Will, and I reached maturity in a house that fostered acceptance and respect.

Perhaps most importantly of all, Ricky and Tyler did their best to help us overcome the feelings of inadequacy we all felt as a result of the private hell we’d all experienced before they took us in. Poor Scott, who’d been in one of those camps that tortures kids to try to make them go straight, never did overcome it completely. I heard he was still running from the demons of his past. I guess in that regard I was lucky. My parents never beat me or sent me somewhere to be tortured. They didn’t try to make me pretend to be someone I wasn’t either. They just threw me out with the trash! Thank God Ricky and Tyler came along.

Compared to my foster brothers and me, my boyfriend had it easy growing up. Carlos was one of four children born to second generation, Hispanic parents who were themselves the children of undocumented Mexican immigrants. Born in the U.S., Carlos’ parents were American Citizens. They were hard-working, productive people who gave back to the country of their birth all that it had given them. Carlos was proud of his parents as well he should have been.

Although raised Catholic, they loved their son - their gay son - and, through extension, they loved me too. Carlos’ dad had trouble understanding it at first, but that he loved his son was never in question. Once they understood that Carlos wasn’t gay because of something they had done nor because of some failing on his part, they accepted his sexuality with pride. I considered them as if they were my parents too, and Carlos accepted Ricky and Tyler as his parents as well.

When Carlos and I graduated from Shortridge High School, we matriculated to nearby Butler University, which was an elite, private university located within walking distance of Ricky and Tyler’s home. Carlos and I had been together as a couple for five years by then, and felt we were more than ready to make a commitment for life. Although Indiana did not recognize same-sex marriage, that didn’t stop us from holding a commitment ceremony in the church we all went to downtown. With our house being so close to school, there seemed little reason to get a place of our own, and so Carlos moved in with me, into Ricky and Tyler’s home.

With all the advanced placement we got, we finished our undergraduate degrees in only three years, me now at the age of twenty and Carlos at 21. Carlos was accepted to the Indianapolis branch of the Indiana University School of Law, located on the IUPUI campus downtown. I went on to get my Masters in Education at Butler and was then offered a teaching position at Park Tudor, a very prestigious private school about a mile from our home.

At first, I was reluctant to take on a job that involved teaching a bunch of rich, mostly white snobs but, as Ricky pointed out, our good friends, Kevin and Lance, had gone there. Notwithstanding, it would look good on my resumé when I decided to take a real teaching job. I was amazed right from the beginning how little the rich kids knew about the world around them. Their parents might be the movers and shakers of our community, however their children hardly knew about the current events going on around them, let alone about the impact of the past. It seemed more than a few of the kids thought I was a token, hired to satisfy a school diversity requirement. That attitude didn’t last any longer than it took me to put them on the spot in the classroom.

Carlos graduated near the top of his class and handily passed the Bar exam. He could have written his ticket and been hired by some of the most prestigious law firms in the city. A lot of his classmates did just that, joining large law firms and spending years as associates, slaving away in the hope of eventually making partner. That kind of lifestyle just wasn’t for us. For one thing, I wanted to actually see my lover every now and then. We both wanted to have the time to grow together as partners in life and not just be two individuals, sharing the same house while slaving away at our all-consuming jobs.

Carlos liked the idea of helping the little guy, but being a legal aid attorney would have meant spending long hours with little to show for it. We both knew he would be doing a lot of pro bono work wherever he went, but why make a career of it? Being a public defender, on the other hand, while being a reasonable stepping stone, would have involved dealing with enormous case loads with little time to actually spend with his clients.

Conversely, the same could have been said for working on the other side, in the district attorney’s office. Most cases involved small-time drug possession offenses that were settled quickly without actually going to court. It was all about plea bargains and moving on to the next case, and that was definitely not what Carlos had in mind.

What Carlos really wanted to do was open a solo law practice, but that would involve a lot of sacrifice while he built his reputation and acquired clients. Starting out would be tough going for a while, and would significantly delay such things as buying a house. The law practice would have to come first. Unfortunately, as much as we both enjoyed living in the city where we grew up, Indianapolis and its suburbs were pretty well saturated, making it very difficult for a new solo practitioner to get started.

We’d really never even considered moving to a smaller community before, but it was looking increasingly like a smaller community would provide the best opportunity for a new attorney trying to establish a solo practice.

Rural communities, however, tended to be insular, and not very accepting of people who grew up elsewhere. I would have expected them to be lily-white, pretty much leaving me out of the picture, but that proved not to be the case at all. Rural Indiana was certainly whiter than Indy was, however the African American population was not at all insignificant. Many blacks passed through Indiana as part of the Underground Railroad in the days before the Civil War, and many of them stayed. The Hispanic population was also fairly strong, owing in large part to the migrant workers on which Indiana farms were heavily dependent.

No, the issue wasn’t that we were black or Hispanic, nor probably even that we were gay, although that certainly was a factor. When we looked at rural communities, doors shut in our faces simply because we didn’t grow up there. Rural communities were particularly suspicious of us city dwellers. They saw us as being outsiders out to make a quick buck and run. They just didn’t trust us.

Surprisingly, it turned out to be the distant suburban towns, or exurbs as they were often called, that provided the most opportunity for a new lawyer to establish their own solo practice. These hamlets that dotted the countryside outside of town provided a limited array of services, mostly for the convenience of those who wished to avoid a trip into the city. Although a half-hour drive to the nearest suburban town or an hour's drive into the city itself might not sound like much to most people, those who chose to live in these more remote villages did so for a reason. The jobs they sought might still be in the city, but that didn’t mean they wanted to raise their kids there.

Wishing to avoid the traffic with a trip into town, and the perceived higher crime rate of the city, the availability of a local attorney who could handle a will or settle an estate had a definite appeal to them. There was also a desperate need for teachers in these communities, which competed with the city schools, but couldn’t afford to pay as much.

Shortly after passing the Bar exam, Carlos began a search for a community that offered opportunities for both of us. It wasn’t an easy task, as most of the communities we explored were religious, conservative and very homophobic. We had no intention of hiding who we were and, hence, although we didn’t expect to find acceptance, we agreed that we weren’t going to live in a place where we couldn’t behave as a couple in public. We could forgo kissing or other outward signs of affection such as holding hands, but we weren’t about to behave like a couple of good buddies out looking for a date, either. We weren’t about to live in a place where we had to fear for our lives.

Because I was the one who needed a job, Carlos and I decided we would use my job applications as a means of testing the waters. Simply by listing Carlos as my spouse, we figured that any school willing to at least grant me an interview was worth looking at. Of course, the lack of competition from other lawyers was also important, depending on the size of the community, but we would use my job as the first step in screening for potential places to call home.

I sent job applications to school districts in places with names such as Cicero, Tipton, Lebanon, Frankfort, Crawfordsville, Danville, Greencastle, Martinsville, Franklin, Shelbyville, Greensburg, Newcastle and Anderson, to name a few. I’d never realized just how many small towns ringed the city, and that were within commuting distance, and how many of those had independent school districts. In the end, I submitted close to a hundred inquiries and submitted nearly fifty job applications. Not surprisingly, most of the job applications didn’t even result in a phone call. That probably wasn’t surprising, as even straight applicants experience much the same thing.

Among those that did call me, several assumed that I’d made a mistake in filling out my application or that Carlos was a nickname for Carlotta or the like. Even after I clarified the situation, however, most still allowed me to interview. Perhaps it was because they feared being sued for discrimination, but I was willing to give them the benefit of the doubt. If they didn’t want me because I was gay, they simply wouldn’t offer me the job, which was fine by me. In that case, I didn’t want them, either.

Surprisingly, a number of the interviews did lead to solid job offers. I had top marks and what Carlos referred to as a sparkling personality, and perhaps being gay really didn’t matter as much as it used to. So, after thoroughly exploring each of the communities where I was offered a job, and doing a thorough analysis of Carlos’ prospects for establishing a successful law practice, we settled on a small town to the south of the city that was nearly equidistant from both Indy and Bloomington. It was close enough to Indy that we could visit our families often, and partake of the nightlife and other experiences that could only be found in a bigger city. The proximity to Bloomington, home of the main campus of Indiana University, which had one of the top-ranked music schools in America, was an added bonus. Carlos and I both loved classical music and the university had numerous free concerts throughout the year. Not only that, but some of the best-known artists in the world came there to perform.

Financially, it was tough going at first. The startup costs for establishing a law practice are astronomical. We had plenty of office locations to choose from, but the landlords all wanted several months rent up front, as well as a security deposit. Then there was the cost of renovating the space to make it suitable, purchasing office furniture, computers and other office equipment, and the cost of hiring an assistant to serve as the secretary, accountant and receptionist. Carlos’ secretary took home more money than he did for the first few years, by a wide margin, but there would have been no law practice without her help. On top of that, we both had student loans that needed to be paid off. Even with financial help from Carlos’ parents, we barely had enough left over to pay the rent on our tiny apartment and to buy groceries. It was a good thing I knew how to cook and could feed us nutritionally on the cheap!

Teaching in a small, financially strapped school system provided its own set of challenges, not least of which was providing a quality education with limited resources. Although we were far from the city, we had big city problems including crime, drugs, bullying and a surprising number of teenage pregnancies, in middle school. There were also a couple of kids who were HIV-positive, which was shocking in a school with only 250 kids between the ages of ten and fourteen. Sometimes it seemed I spent as much time functioning as a social worker as I did a teacher.

What I never realized when I was a student was that teaching really is more about politics than anything else. When I was a kid, I only saw the teacher at the front of the room, imparting words of wisdom to the classroom as I focused on them and nothing else. Of course, I was aware of my classmates around me, particularly my friends, but as to what else went on in the room during a typical class period, I hadn’t a clue. I never saw the kids passing notes back and forth in the back of the room. I didn’t see the kids with their heads on their desks, or the ones with their heads bent downwards, texting each other or playing games on the smart phones they weren’t even supposed to have in class. I never saw the kids with the vacant stares - whether it was from lack of sleep, drug use or problems at home. No, being the honor student I was, all I saw was the teacher up front doing what I hoped to do someday.

Even more hidden from my experiences as a youth, were the endless lesson plans, meetings and reports that must be turned in. I was oblivious of the constant performance reviews that teachers face. As a kid I was well aware of my own report card, but what kid ever considers the one the teacher receives? The students’ aggregate test scores, performance evaluations and even surreptitious observations, factor into the teacher’s assessment. Much depends on that report card - annual bonuses, promotions, granting of tenure, and even hiring and firing decisions hinge on how the teacher is graded. No matter how outstanding they are at teaching, not even a good grade can save a teacher from the allegations made by a vindictive student. Being accused of sexual misconduct is every teacher’s worst fear. It only takes one kid to make an accusation - one complaint - for a teacher to be put on leave with pay. If that kid has friends willing to back them up, well, you can kiss your pension goodbye.

If I sound bitter, it’s because I am. I went into teaching with the best of intentions. I wanted to be that teacher that made all the difference. I wanted to be the one all the students looked back on as the one who changed their lives. I thought I was good at it, too. Like most teachers, I hated the indifferent students, the politics, and the endless paperwork. I hated that I was graded based on narrow-minded criteria without looking at the bigger picture. It was no wonder that so many teachers ended up just playing the game, teaching to maximize test scores rather than for maximum learning. It was no wonder that so many teachers did as little outside of class as they could get away with and as little as possible in class, barely doing the job they were hired for. That just wasn’t me, and I paid a price for actually trying to help my kids.

Most teachers, when seeing a kid texting in class, would simply ignore it. I couldn’t. They would never get ahead if they didn’t pay attention in class. As a result, a lot of kids didn’t like me because I confiscated their phones. That was the school policy, after all. A lot of parents didn’t like me because they had to actually come to the school to retrieve their kids’ confiscated phones, which was a big deal if both parents worked in the city. The principal didn’t like me because of all the flack she caught from the parents, irate that they had to take time off from their busy lives to respond to their kids’ behavior - behavior that they otherwise should have cared more about. And all of that animus was just because of texting in class when the students should have been focusing on learning.

I also caught a lot of flack for my use of random drug screens. We were all supposed to be watching for signs of drug use. It was part of our training. There were clear-cut warning signs, not the least of which was sleeping in class. If I saw a kid sleeping through an entire class, I asked them to see me at the end of the class. One look into their eyes told me all I needed to know. If I saw pinpoint or dilated pupils, I sent them on to the school nurse for a random urine test. If not, I spoke to them briefly about why they were sleeping in class. Were they getting enough sleep? Were there problems at home? I almost caught more flack for asking such personal questions than from sending them for drug screening. God forbid a teacher should actually care!

However, all of that was balanced by the honor students - the kids who really appreciated what I was trying to do - the kids who were there to learn. I took great pride when one of my students excelled and made the honor role, or placed on the debating team. I felt equally proud when our soccer team won a game. Yeah, I was the head coach for our boys soccer team. If anything, middle school soccer was even more intense than high school or college soccer. A lot of our kids had been playing soccer practically since they could walk. Gradually, they would lose interest as what we Americans called football became the dominant sport. At this point in their lives, however, soccer was king.

It was funny - I’d never considered coaching as something I would want to do as a teacher, but our distant suburban school district was small and we couldn’t afford to hire dedicated physical education teachers, let alone coaches. We had less than 250 kids in the whole school - about eighty kids in each grade level. For years there had been talk of explosive growth as people moved out from the city, but that just didn’t happen. If anything, people were moving back into the city, and even the inner ring suburbs were making a comeback. There just wasn’t a need to commute an hour when quality, affordable housing was available, just a stone’s throw away from downtown. Carlos and I grew up in the city, after all. We understood better than most the advantages of living there.

Our exurban middle school had only ten classrooms, plus an art/music room, and a common room that served as the gym, auditorium and cafeteria. For years there had been talk of combining the high school and middle school on one campus, with shared facilities and shared teachers, but politics, parents and money always got in the way. It might have been nice to have had a separate, dedicated gymnasium, cafeteria and auditorium, but the existing buildings, built back in the seventies, were still useable. Even if the parents had been willing to allow their middle schoolers to mingle with high schoolers, the taxpayers weren’t willing to float a bond issue to fund new construction. The fact that the savings in operational expenses alone would pay off the bond issue in under ten years, didn’t seem to matter. ‘You wouldn’t build yourself a new house, after all,’ the reasoning went, ‘just because the old one was more expensive to heat, so why should we build a new school?’ They called that kind of thinking ‘Hoosier sensibility’ but Carlos and I called it just plain stupidity.

Because of the need to jockey the use of shared space, students took Physical Education three days a week, and had either music or art appreciation on the alternate days, taught by a teacher we shared with the high school, and with two other districts. There was a lot of talk about cutting out the art and music classes altogether, and making PE an elective, now that the state no longer required it. Budgets were tight and the school board was looking for ways to save money. Thank God reason still prevailed, as cutting school services would only have driven people away and made our community even more depressed economically. We had to compete head-on with the city and suburban school districts, and we had to do so on a much tighter budget.

For now, at least, PE was mandatory, and we had one dedicated physical education teacher who also taught Social Studies. There was no way she could coach all the school athletic teams and, hence, we all had to pitch in with coaching. The parents would have recalled the school board if they ever even hinted at disbanding a single sports team. Boys football, baseball, basketball and soccer were pretty much a given, but there were also enough students with an interest to support girls basketball, and co-ed tennis, volleyball and golf. That meant fielding eight teams, with a coach for each. Because I’d played varsity soccer in high school, I was ‘volunteered’ to serve as the coach for the boys soccer team.

Now, I enjoyed coaching. It was a whole other aspect of education - one that taught teamwork and discipline. Most of the members of my team were also students in my classes, so I had a lot of close, personal time with all of them. I was helping to mold young minds and bodies to be all they could be. I never saw anything sexual in what I did. These were children, after all. Some of them were as young as ten, and the oldest was fourteen. This was middle school and I had no interest in having a sexual relationship with children. I was in a long-term relationship with a man I’d known since grade school. I had no reason to look for sex outside that which I shared with the man I loved and, besides which, sex with a child would have been wrong.

But that’s exactly what I was accused of, all because I tried to help a kid in need - a boy who was having trouble at school because of his abusive parents.

His name was Frankie, and I first met him when he entered the sixth grade. At ten, he was one of my youngest students, celebrating his eleventh birthday on October 14, the very last day the school would allow students to enroll in that grade level without making them wait another year. Fortunately, he was somewhat large for his age and he was very precocious, so he had little problem fitting in with a group of peers that were all older than he was, some by nearly a year.

I was the school’s Math teacher and taught everything from basic pre-algebra, all the way up to a geometry course for a handful of eighth-graders who were advanced enough to take it. Frankie showed his aptitude early on, easily besting just about everyone else in his grade and earning himself a spot in the fast-track program - a program designed to cover two full grade levels in a single year. If successful, he could take eighth grade algebra next year, in seventh grade, and geometry the following year.

Although tall for his age, Frankie was not tall when compared to his peers, most of whom were older. He hardly looked like the athletic type, so it came as a surprise when he showed up at soccer tryouts. Perhaps that was why I took such a liking to him early on, as he reminded me so much of me growing up. Frankie easily held his own on the soccer pitch, and he demonstrated a tenacious spirit that made it difficult for boys even twice his size to get around him. He was one of the best defensive players I’d ever coached. He also demonstrated decent ball handling and, hence, assisted in a number of goals. He reminded me a lot of myself when I played varsity soccer in high school. He was a valuable asset to the team.

It was also during soccer tryouts, however, that I got a glimpse of the difficult home life he had. Although one of my responsibilities as coach was to patrol the locker rooms before and after practice sessions, I doubt that I would have ever noticed his scars from that experience alone. Although I did see the kids without their clothes on, my role there was strictly to make sure no bullying or inappropriate horseplay took place. I never really looked at the boys then - only at what they were doing.

During game play, however, I studied them intently. I watched their every move and looked at how they used their muscles to run, to dodge and to handle the ball. At tryouts, they did not have uniforms and, hence, they played as shirts versus skins. Frankie was a skin, so I got a good look at his back, covered as it was with scars. None of them appeared to be fresh but, clearly, they had been inflicted over a period of years. Frankie was, or at least had been, a victim of child abuse.

I’d dealt with a number of cases of child abuse before, but none struck me so hard as did Frankie’s. Frankie was a sweet kid. I couldn’t imagine anyone wanting to hurt him. As a teacher, it was my responsibility to report suspected cases of child abuse. When I filed my report with Child Protective Services, however, not unexpectedly, I found that Frankie’s case was not a new one. His parents had been investigated multiple times in the past but, as there had been no recent evidence of physical violence against the boy, his case had been closed.

I strongly suspected that the abuse had merely shifted from the physical to the emotional as it almost always did in such cases. Although there was little I could do without proof, I knew that the emotional abuse that was very likely a part of his daily life could be every bit as damaging to his development as a well-adjusted adolescent as were the physical scars he’d already received. I also knew that physical abusers rarely reformed their ways and that physical violence could erupt again at any time, now that CPS was no longer scrutinizing his home life. I therefore took it upon myself to serve as the eyes and ears of CPS, and to make sure nothing else happened to this innocent boy.

As the year progressed, Frankie seemed to become more and more withdrawn. I asked him if anything was wrong at home, but he just smiled and said he was fine and to stop worrying about him. In any case, he remained a top student and was the star of the soccer team.

After the end of the school year, over the course of the summer, I had no contact with Frankie, and I’m ashamed to say I mostly forgot about him. Carlos and I bought our first house together, a large Victorian that was well over a hundred years old. We spent much of the summer fixing it up. Needless to say, it needed a lot of work. We could have never afforded it otherwise.

Come the fall, Frankie was in my eighth grade algebra class. He was one of only five seventh-graders in the class and not yet even twelve, he was by far the smallest one. He was easily the smartest student in the class and some of the students came to resent him as the one who set the curve. If Frankie was aware of how the students felt, he never let on and he continued to excel, even as he became more and more distant and withdrawn. I was worried about him and feared things might have gotten bad again at home.

Because he failed to show up for soccer tryouts, I sought him out, sat him down and asked him why. He claimed he wasn’t interested anymore and practically begged me to drop it. I was never one to let things drop so easily, however, and couldn’t help but notice how he winced when I squeezed his shoulder in the course of showing him my concern.

In what was perhaps one of the stupidest moves of my life, I asked him to remove his shirt. It was just the two of us, alone in a classroom into which anyone could look through a pair of windows in the doors. I should have done it in front of the school nurse but I just wasn’t thinking. Not surprisingly, I saw fresh welts and, compounding matters, I used my personal cell phone to take photographs.

Fortunately for me at the time, no one questioned it when I printed out the photos and presented them to CPS as evidence of ongoing child abuse. Rather than take Frankie out of an abusive home as I’d hoped they would, they simply resumed making random home visits. Otherwise, Frankie was left to fend for himself. CPS didn’t even insist on Frankie’s parents going to counseling sessions, seeing a psychologist or getting any other help in dealing with their anger, as was guaranteed under state law. CPS’s resources were stretched too thinly as it was in our small community.

Again it fell to me to keep a close watch on Frankie, and to try to mitigate the damage being done by his parents. Requests for them to meet with me for reasons other than to discuss his academic performance, however, went unanswered or were outright refused. The one positive thing to come from my attempted interactions with Frankie’s parents was that, eager to avoid further trouble, they allowed their son to join the soccer team. As he did the year before, he quickly became the star of the team.

However, things really started to deteriorate after the Winter Holiday, and his performance in school started to suffer. He was quiet and withdrawn most of the time and I strongly suspected the verbal abuse at home was accelerating, even though there was no physical evidence of it that I was aware of. It was also around this time that I noticed that Frankie often touched himself inappropriately in class and I couldn’t help but wonder if his parents were sexually abusing him as well. In spite of his difficulties, he finished the year on the high honor roll, but not with the straight A’s he’d earned the year before.

Although I had no contact with him over the summer, this time I worried greatly about his well-being. I knew terrible things were happening to him at home and I was powerless to do anything about it. When Frankie returned to school in the fall, he was a surly, belligerent twelve-year-old boy who acted out a lot in class, and hardly seemed to pay attention anymore. Although too small to bully his peers, he frequently bullied the kids in the lower grade levels and was constantly picking fights.

I also notice that his inappropriate touching was significantly more frequent and that he sometimes spent entire class periods in the back of the classroom, masturbating himself through his clothing. In the hallways I heard him using sexually explicit language all the time - not just the usual use of foul language, but graphic descriptions of specific kids and even teachers engaged in explicit sexual acts. There were rumors, too, that he performed fellatio for the asking in the boys’ rooms. However I never managed to catch him in the act. If I had, I could have gotten him help.

What I could address, on the other hand, was his academic performance. He never turned in his assignments in Geometry and was in serious danger of flunking out of the class altogether. Needless to say, he didn’t try out for soccer either. I couldn’t sit idly by and watch him fail, so I confronted young Frankie the week after he celebrated his thirteenth birthday. I made him see me after school and I asked him what was going on. Gone was the sweet boy I used to know. He was uncooperative, spoke very little and evaded my questions. Fed up, I once again asked him to remove his shirt, expecting I would see fresh signs of abuse. It was a horrible mistake.

“What are you, some kind of pervert?” he asked.

“Of course not, Frankie,” I answered. “I think you know that.”

“But I hear you’re a fag,” he went on. “You have a boyfriend and you like to suck his cock all day long. I hear you like to take it up the ass, too…”

“Frankie,” I interrupted, “that kind of language is inappropriate and I think you know it. I won’t deny that I’m gay,” I answered, “but Carlos and I have been together since I was even younger than you are. That doesn’t make me a pervert. What we do in the privacy of our home is our business and our business alone. Suffice it to say that we don’t do anything much different than most heterosexual couples.

“I only want to see your back because of the scars. I want to be sure your parents haven’t been abusing you again.”

“What the fuck would you know about abuse?” Frankie shouted. “Every time you try to help, you only make it worse for me. I can take the beatings. It’s everything else that’s hard. What you and your boyfriend do is disgusting,” he added. “Believe me, I know. I wish you’d just leave me the fuck alone!”

“Don’t tell me I don’t know about abuse,” I replied. “My parents threw me out of the house when I was only ten. It was pretty obvious, even then, that I was gay and they just couldn’t deal with it. I bounced around in foster care for more than a year and suffered horrible beatings until CPS finally allowed my dads to foster me, and later adopt me. So don’t tell me I don’t know what abuse is like.

“The bottom line is that it’s your parents who should leave you alone, Frankie,” I replied. “They have no right to do what they’ve been doing to you. I can’t help you unless you want to be helped. I can document the physical abuse but, unless you tell CPS what’s really going on, they can’t do anything about it.”

“What the fuck can they do?” Frankie said in tears. “They can’t give me new parents.”

“Yes they can…” I started to respond, but Frankie interrupted.

“Bullshit!” he replied. “I spent a year in foster care when I was five. Some of my worst scars are from that year. You of all people should understand…”

Suddenly overwhelmed with what young Frankie had faced all his life, I pulled him into my arms and hugged him tightly. I could feel his hot tears soaking through my shirt. After releasing him from my embrace, I quietly asked, “Now could you please take your shirt off? I really need to see with my own eyes that you aren’t being physically hurt.”

Nodding his head, he pulled his T-shirt over his head and I thoroughly inspected his skin. Thank God, there were no fresh scars but, then, I thought about his comments about what Carlos and I did being disgusting and couldn’t help but wonder if he was now facing sexual as well as verbal abuse at home. I was totally oblivious of the principal looking in through the window in one of the doors.

The tears were still streaming down Frankie’s face and he looked so vulnerable right then, I again pulled him into a warm hug and ran my hands up and down his bare back, oblivious as to how this might look to someone peering in at us. Then feeling his erection pressing into my abdomen, I pulled slightly away from Frankie and asked, “Frankie, is someone at home abusing you… you know… sexually?”

At first Frankie looked embarrassed as he turned red and looked down at his lap, seeming to stare at the large bulge that had formed in the shorts he was wearing. Then his head jerked up and the red face turned to one of rage as he shouted, “I ain’t no pervert like you and your fuckin’ boyfriend!” He tore away from me and ran out the door, his erection leading the way. I never knew that the principal had witnessed the whole thing.

It was a week later that I was called to to the principal’s office. It’s never a good thing for a kid to be called to see the principal, but it’s even worse for a teacher. No matter what, kids have to go to school and principals truly see expulsion to an alternative school as a last resort. For a teacher, the principal is your boss. She has the power to grant tenure, to hire, fire and discipline you. The union may be there to ensure that the terms of your contract are honored but, even still, the contract gives the principal significant leeway over you when it comes to disciplinary actions with cause.

As I entered her office, my interaction with Frankie from the week before was just about the last thing on my mind. However, scarcely a day went by that I didn’t think of him and what he must be going through at home. I had no way to gather the evidence I needed to have him taken out of an abusive home. I had assumed that, had she known what was happening, she and I would have been on the same page. The thought that she could see me as the one abusing Frankie never once entered my mind.

“Sit down, Jerry,” she began as she sifted through a file on her desk. Once I was seated as comfortably as I could be in the stiff wooden chair, she continued, “It seems we have a problem regarding a young student of yours, Frankie Templeton.”

I breathed a sigh of relief, thinking she had some information about Frankie that might lead to his being freed from the abuse he faced every day. “I’m so glad to hear you say that,” I responded, which resulted in her getting a curious look on her face.

“For two-and-a-half years I’ve watched him suffer with abuse at home,” I continued. “However, even after I turned in pictures proving that he’d been the victim of fresh abuse, CPS did little more than reopen his case. They left him to fend for himself in the very home where he’d received his abuse.

“Although the physical abuse stopped after that,” I continued, “he became increasingly moody and withdrawn. I could only conclude that he was suffering severe emotional abuse at home, but proving it was virtually impossible without his cooperation.

“More recently,” I added, “he’s been showing clear-cut signs of sexual abuse. He gropes himself during class. He uses graphically descriptive sexual innuendos when talking about his classmates and even his teachers. I just haven’t been able to prove it and he won’t talk about it with me.”

“It’s not your responsibility to talk about it with him,” the principal countered. “He has a counselor to go to for that…”

“You know as well as I do that a young kid like Frankie would never discuss sexual abuse with a woman,” I interrupted. “I’m his soccer coach…”

“He didn’t go out for soccer this year,” she countered.

“And I’m also his math teacher,” I continued. “We’ve always had a close relationship and he’s been my best student, until this year. He used to be a straight-A student but this year he’s failing geometry.”

“About those pictures,” the principal challenged, going back to a subject I would have thought was closed, “they were taken with your own cell phone. Surely you know that’s a serious breach of school policy.”

“I had to act right then,” I countered. “The boy was very vulnerable at the time and I needed to get the documentation right then and there in the least obtrusive way. The camera on my cell phone was handy and I took advantage of it to collect the photos I needed.”

“But cell phones can be used to send images as well as photograph them,” she explained. “You certainly know that some of our students have been caught sexting in class. In using your cell phone, you opened yourself up to allegations of sending those pictures to a third party or parties. How difficult would it have been to reassure young Frankie, and to take him to the school nurse, where the pictures could have been taken with the school camera with both you and her present to verify that there was no impropriety involved? Sure, it would have taken more time but it would have saved you a world of trouble in the end.

“There’s something even more worrisome that has come to my attention, however,” she went on. Taking a deep breath, she continued, “About a week ago I happened to be passing by your classroom when I saw something that caught my attention. You and Frankie were alone in your classroom and you were hugging him. That in and of itself was inappropriate. No matter how strong the urge to reassure a student, close physical contact can lead to allegations of abuse by a teacher…”

“You don’t think that…” I interrupted.

“It doesn’t matter what I think,” she countered. “What matters is what the student can claim in the end. It gets worse, however,” she added. “After hugging Frankie, you had him remove his shirt. You looked him over and then you hugged him again, caressing him in what appeared to be a blatant sexual manner.”

“There was nothing sexual about it!” I shouted.

Holding up her hand, she continued, “You might not have intended it to be sexual but Frankie apparently took it that way. He ran from the room with a prominent erection. It was hard to miss and highly suggestive of an inappropriate relationship between the two of you.”

“You know that boys that age are always getting erections,” I countered, “often from things that have nothing to do with sex at all! In Frankie’s case, however, his reaction stemmed from sexual abuse at home. I know that to be the case. He frequently masturbates in class, right in front of everyone. Boys don’t do that unless they’re being abused at home.”

“Or at school,” the principal pointed out. “The bottom line is that, when I witnessed what I saw, I was obligated to assume the worst and to check it out. I interviewed Frankie personally and, as dictated by protocol, I interviewed him in the presence of his parents.”

“But they’re probably the ones abusing him,” I challenged.

“Regardless, Frankie tells a very compelling story of a sexual relationship between the two of you dating back to when he was only ten years old…”

“That’s a lie!” I countered. “His parents must have put him up to it.”

“His parents didn’t even know,” the principal went on. “Frankie told me this without any apparent coercion…”

“They must have coached him in advance to put the blame on a teacher,” I suggested.

“That would be pretty hard to prove,” the principal countered, “but, nevertheless, you have your rights and a full investigation will now be undertaken to get to the bottom of what really happened.”

“What really happened is that a sweet, innocent young kid has been systematically abused since he was a toddler if not even before. CPS has been involved with his case and he even spent a year in foster care, where he unfortunately suffered even worse physical abuse.

“Since coming here, I have been monitoring the situation. I first became aware of the physical abuse when I saw him without a shirt during soccer tryouts in the sixth grade. When it became apparent that he was, once again, suffering physical abuse in the seventh grade, I engaged CPS, only to see them virtually ignore it.

“When it became apparent this year that he was likely experiencing sexual abuse at home, I did what I could under the circumstances. I looked for signs of physical abuse by having him take his shirt off, I examined him for any signs of new injuries, and I did what I could to comfort him. That is what you witnessed last week in my classroom.

“When I confronted him with my suspicions of sexual abuse, however, he bolted from the room. Yes, he had an erection, but it had nothing to do with anything I did to him other than physically holding him and my asking him about sexual abuse.”

“Jerry, I actually do believe your story,” the principal acknowledged. “It fits with what I already know about the case. Nevertheless, allegations have been made that you have been fondling young Frankie and performing fellatio on him at least once or twice weekly since he was ten.”

“Isn’t it convenient that the only things alleged are sexual acts that leave no evidence of the crime…“ I pointed out, “… sexual acts that a parent who abuses their son might use.”

“Or a teacher,” the principal countered. “You do understand that we have to investigate this. The Templetons are furious and have threatened to sue the School Board for more than our entire budget. We have no choice.

“I hate to do this, Jerry, but I am going to have to put you on suspension. As a tenured teacher, you do have your rights and I encourage you to meet with your union representative. You will continue to collect your full salary until and unless we determine that there is sufficient evidence to terminate you.

“I’m really, really sorry,” she went on. “You’re one of our best teachers and a real asset to the school, and to the community.”

I was stunned. I didn’t believe it. This couldn’t be happening! “Is there anything I can do to exonerate myself?” I asked.

Shaking her head, she replied, “Not really. The investigation has to proceed unimpeded. Anything you do now might be seen as interference and could only hurt your cause. Off the record, I do believe in your innocence and we will do everything we can to prove it if at all possible. In the meantime, it wouldn’t hurt to contact your union representative.”

“What the hell can they do?” I asked of no one in particular as I closed the principal’s door behind me.

To make a long story short, although the evidence was sufficient to suspend me with pay, it wasn’t enough to fire a tenured teacher. For that they needed corroborating evidence. To her credit, the principal listened to what I had to say. and seemed to believe my story, even as she admonished me for not following proper procedures. She assured me she would do all she could to see to it that I was exonerated. I believed her, which only delayed me seeking legal advice from anyone other than my boyfriend, who was as ignorant as I was when it came to matters of sexual misconduct. At least he did have enough sense to suggest I talk to a friend of his from school who worked for a large firm in the city. I just didn’t see the point.

More than a month passed while I was on suspension. As I was still receiving my full pay, we had yet to feel any financial strain from my situation, even though our lives had been totally disrupted. Carlos was barely making enough to pay back his student loans and cover the cost of running his practice, let alone pay the mortgage and put food on the table. It would be years before his practice showed a profit and, hence, my income was essential to our survival. With nothing better to do, I spent the time fixing up our house, oblivious of the events swirling around me at the school. I could have, and should have, conferred with the union’s attorney back in the city, who knew a lot more about my rights than Carlos did. My union representative should have told me as much but he was more worried about the impact a pedophile teacher could have on the next round of contract negotiations.

In the end it wouldn’t have been enough anyway, but at least I could have started preparing for what lay ahead. I had naïvely assumed that I would be exonerated and would simply go back to teaching, wiser for the experience. I assumed that the absolute worst thing that could happen to me was that I could be fired. How wrong I was.

The proverbial knock on the door came in December, not long after we’d celebrated Thanksgiving. I was upstairs, painting one of the bedrooms when they came. Because of the antiquated heating system in the house that made the upstairs unbearably hot, even as the lower floors were freezing, I was stripped to my boxers and wearing only a painting cap. With my iPhone clipped to my boxers and ear buds filling my ears with music, I did not hear the ringing of the doorbell. I didn’t even hear the sound of the battering ram as it struck the front door.

Before I knew what was happening, the room was filled with police, pointing their guns at me. I was forced down onto the floor, made to lie prone, and my hands were harshly pulled behind my back and handcuffed. My painter’s cap was knocked off in the process.

Wearing only my boxers, I was led outside, barefoot and shirtless into the freezing December air in front of TV cameras, and then forced into the back seat of a police cruiser as I was read my rights. At the tiny, local police station, I was unceremoniously booked and thrown, nearly naked and freezing, into a holding cell, where I waited hours before even being allowed to make my one phone call. By then Carlos was already aware of my arrest, having seen it on TV, and was securing the funds from our parents and making the arrangements for my bail.

You don’t hear about these things but, when the police break your door down and take you away, they don’t exactly repair the door, let alone lock it behind them. They don’t even board the house up - not right away in any case. Although they waste little time cordoning the place off with police tape to protect a potential crime scene, a roll of police tape isn’t much of a deterrent when it comes to thieves and criminals. A small town police force just doesn’t have the resources or the experience to protect ones house while one is in jail.

As Carlos was arranging for my release, the integrity of our home was just about the last thing on his mind. While he was in the midst of arranging a wire transfer and the issuance of a cashier’s check to bail me out, and while he was working to enlist the aid of a colleague to represent me, someone took it upon themselves to dispense God’s vengeance on a couple of perverts, soaking the interior of our house with gasoline and then lighting a match. Our house burned to the ground before the local fire department could find the nearest working hydrant.

As Carlos and I were heavily in debt, and could have never afforded to buy a house unless we did it on the cheap, we took out the most basic home owner’s insurance policy we could find. We did not think it important to insure ourselves against things that were highly unlikely to occur - things like floods, riots and, of course, arson. Our policy specifically excluded paying for any damage resulting from arson, no matter whether we had anything to do with it or not.

In the coming days we learned a lot about what had happened. When the principal called in Frankie and his parents to ask for their version of what happened, his parents went ballistic. They accused me of performing lurid acts with their son. Although they weren’t exactly the most credible witnesses, their allegations had to be taken seriously. Examined by a child psychologist, Frankie recounted having been sexually involved with me from the very beginning of sixth grade, when he was still only ten, just as he had with the principal. He was very specific in his description of events, describing episodes of fondling, masturbation and fellatio. As he described it, we saw each other at least weekly and often twice weekly, and I usually ejaculated, but never orally, and I never practiced anal intercourse with him.

Of course none of this was true but, as told by Frankie, it was highly believable. That he specifically denied intraoral ejaculation or anal intercourse, suggested that he must have been heavily coached by someone who knew exactly what could and could not be proven. Even more likely, I suspected that he spoke from personal experience of sexual abuse suffered, not from me, but at the hands of one or both of his parents.

With a largely circumstantial case, the school started interviewing my students and former students to see if anyone else would come forward. There certainly were students who were unhappy with me - students who’d had a cell phone confiscated or been caught under the influence of drugs. Given the similarity of the stories they told, it seemed likely that Frankie’s parents or even Frankie had coached them on what to say. I was totally, royally fucked.

The one person who never questioned my integrity was my wonderful boyfriend. He knew I was incapable of doing these things. My dads were also wonderful about the whole thing. They never doubted my innocence and they stood by me, securing the services of one of the best lawyers around. It made all the difference in the world. They took out a mortgage on their house to pay his retainer, and to pay back the bond money that got me out of jail.

The case dragged on for months as the prosecution used every delaying tactic in the book to try to build an air-tight case against me. Although they had multiple witnesses, they were all underage and the case was entirely circumstantial. Further, my own lawyer found multiple students willing to testify on my behalf - students who admitted having been approached by Frankie’s parents and asked to lie.

The turning point came in March, when Frankie’s parents caught him in a compromising position with another boy from school. Forced to flee for his life, the other boy had the good sense to call 911 from his cell phone. The police arrived in time to find Frankie, savagely beaten by his own parents. Once he regained consciousness, he told the police that everything he’d said about me was a lie and that I’d never done anything but try to help him.

That was far from the end of our ordeal, however, as there were still allegations from other students. When our lawyer presented sworn depositions from some students that they had been approached by Frankie’s parents and asked to lie, however, it became obvious that all the evidence against me would never hold up in court. The prosecution quietly dropped the case and refunded my bond money but, to the residents of our small town, I was still that pedophile teacher. The School Board refused to reinstate me and I remained on leave without pay. A lot of the parents didn’t believe in my innocence and they applied intense pressure on the school to outright fire me. Unable to fire a tenured teacher without cause, I was left in limbo.

My boyfriend and I were indebted to the bank for a house that was burned to the ground and our insurance company just walked away from it, refusing to pay a dime. We were reduced to sleeping on cots in Carlos’ office. We had no place else to go.

Our lawyer advised us to declare bankruptcy but that would have been the end of Carlos’ law practice. Against his own advice, my lawyer agreed to represent us in a lawsuit against the school system for wrongful breach of contract and against the police department for false arrest and for failing to properly secure a crime scene. We could have probably gotten a seven-figure settlement from each suit if we’d taken them to court, but that would have taken years when all we really wanted was to get money to rebuild our house and for me to be able to resume teaching. It was Frankie’s plight, however, that settled the whole thing quickly.

Placed in a foster home by CPS, Frankie was handed over to an overly eager couple that assumed a gay boy would willingly allow himself to be pimped out. When he refused, he was locked in a dark room without food or water until he agreed to do their bidding. They were out of their league when it came to dealing with a street-wise thirteen-year-old boy who had a lifetime’s experience in dealing with abuse.

Frankie bided his time doing what he had to do to survive. What should have been an intolerable insult to an already fragile youth only strengthened him. With resolve he compartmentalized his feelings, willingly servicing his johns until his foster parents came to trust him to do their bidding.

It wasn’t until after the fourth of July that they came to trust him enough to leave him alone to recruit johns while they went about their business. The moment he realized he wasn’t being watched, Frankie ran to me, seeking my help to get away from his abusive foster parents.

Carlos dropped everything and then we called my dads for advice. They had a world of experience in dealing with abused gay teens and, with the help of Reverend Charles Slater, the minister at our church back in Indianapolis, who himself was gay and ran a home for gay teens, we were able to secure legal help that day.

We petitioned immediately for an injunction against Frankie’s foster parents to keep him from being forced to return there, and we simultaneously applied for an emergency foster license to allow us to care for Frankie ourselves. With financial help from our dads, we rented a two-bedroom apartment where the three of us could live until our lawsuits were resolved and our house was rebuilt. Needless to say, CPS was not at all cooperative and, indeed, they tried to take Frankie from us and return him to the foster parents who had been pimping him out.

Anticipating this, we called a news crew from the city to interview Frankie for the evening news. We didn’t have to coerce them to come either; they could smell a major story in the making - one that would sell. Frankie was very convincing on TV, leaving little doubt that he had been forced by his foster parents into a life of prostitution. Needless to say, public sentiment was overwhelmingly on our side.

Faced with tremendous negative publicity, the School Board quietly settled with us. I got my job back, with back pay, and my pension was reinstated. I was also given an iron-clad contract that basically obligated them to pay my salary through retirement, regardless of whether or not I was allowed to teach. Similarly, the police department settled with us, paying for full replacement of our house with a brand new one and paying a half-million dollars in cash. Not only were we able to pay off the mortgage, but we managed to pay off our student loans and our parents as well.

Finally we could afford to put Carlos’ law practice on a firm footing and I was able to get down to doing what I loved to do, which was teaching. And now we had a son - a very kind, caring, wonderful son whom we loved with all our hearts. The adoption went surprisingly smoothly and quickly and, by September, he was legally ours. It would be some time before we could move into our new house, but that hardly mattered. At last we were a family.

Frankie lost a lot of time from school, however, and his grades for the year were poor at best. The principal wanted him to repeat the entire year, but that would have been a terrible blow to his psyche. With intensive one-on-one tutoring over the rest of the summer, I quickly got him up to speed and ready for high school. He was exceptionally smart and holding him back would have only discouraged the passion for learning that used to burn brightly within.

I was graduating to high school, too. With all that had happened, I felt I needed a change. There was an opening for a math teacher at the high school and, coincidentally, they were in need of a coach for boys soccer.

As we drove to school together on our first day, Frankie asked, “Jerry, what would you think about starting a GSA at school?”

Thinking about it for a bit, I answered, “That’s a pretty big step. The school’s not much larger than the one you came from…”

“But even so, there’s gotta be at least thirty of us there, and I’m sure there are some straight kids who would be willing.”

“Are you really sure you want to take something like that on, after all you’ve already been through?” I asked.

“Jerry, I’m already out, you know,” he answered. “With all the publicity, everyone knows about me, and about you guys, for that matter.

“I went through hell at the hands of my parents, but that was nothing compared to what they did to me when they found out I’m gay. Never mind that my asshole of a father used to grope me and make me jerk him off ever since I could get two hands around him. If we can help even one kid, it’ll be worth it, you know?”

“It’s pretty hard to argue with that,” I answered, and so the idea for starting a GSA at the high school was born. Thanks to red tape, it would be months before the GSA would get off the ground.

In the meantime, Frankie and I fell into the usual routines of the school year and soccer. Frankie had matured significantly and, watching him play as a skin at tryouts, I couldn’t help but admire how much he’d filled out since I first met him. Although not as big as most of the boys trying out, he was very fast on his feet. He did as well as ever and I seriously contemplated putting him on the varsity team straightaway. The only reason not to, would be because of political pressure and allegations of nepotism - otherwise he would have been a shoe-in.

On the third day of try-outs, as the boys exited the gym, I became curious when Frankie had been in the locker room for quite some time and still hadn’t come out. Getting worried that something might have happened to him, I entered the locker room and found my son still mostly undressed, sitting on one of the benches and talking to one of the other boys hoping to make the team. Brian, who was still naked, tried to cover himself as he called out, “Mr. Cassidy!” He was one of my more promising students.

Spotting me, Frankie said, "Oh shit… sorry, Jerry. Brian and I just got a little carried away talking and such.”

As the boys started to dress and I turned around to leave them to their privacy, Frankie called out, “Jerry?”

Turning back, I asked, “Yes, what is it?”

“Could Brian come over this weekend and maybe stay the night?”

Suspecting there might be more to their relationship than mere friendship, I answered, “Of course, your friends are welcome. He can spend the night with you too… on the sleeper sofa in the living room.”

“Damn…” Frankie responded. “Oh well… it was worth a try.”

Now fully dressed, he turned back to Brian and gave him a quick kiss on the lips and said, “See you later, Babe.”

Thoroughly embarrassed, Brian turned a brilliant shade of red and barely eeked out, “Yeah, see you,” but he had a huge grin on his face. So did Frankie.

Copyright © 2021 Altimexis; All Rights Reserved.
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